Perhaps the only downside to speeding up NHL play is that more and more teams are looking the same. It’s becoming more difficult to categorize a particular team as a style as rosters are just packed with players who can move at high speeds and are focused on getting onto the ice as quickly as possible. And since arenas all look the same, we have fewer and fewer customs and traditions to cling to and recognize as just part of a team’s reputation and history.
So it was heartening to see the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin being inducted into New York’s pantheon last night, ie joining the all-‘Why the hell did I bother?’ team. Because if there’s one thing we can identify as a Rangers trait over the last decade and a half or so, it’s a goaltender clenching while his teammates at the other end of the ice transform into those inflatable sumo suits. Henrik Lundqvist certainly woke up in a cold sweat at some point in the middle of the night (while still looking better than the rest of us put together).
Shesterkin made 79 saves last night. 79, in five periods plus. According to the metric, he saved Rangers 4.5 fewer than expected goals in just one game based on the chances the Penguins created. He had to play three and a half more periods after Rangers fired 25 shots in the second period alone. And for all his work, for all his heroics, he went home 1-0 down to turn on the pens thanks to Evgeni Malkin’s third overtime winner 4:3 victory.
Not only did the Rangers fail Shesterkin, they weren’t just beaten by a version of Malkin that has excavator mobility at the moment and is only effective when allowed to stand still with the size of a national park to games (which Rangers did twice!), but they failed to score against Pens’ third row goalie for almost an entire period, even in overtime. Casey DeSmith (Who is a real piece of shit btw), had to leave in the middle of the second overtime, and Louis Domingue came in. Remember that the second overtime saw Domingue sit on his ass for about four hours. It could also, uh, have been freshly cleaned, let’s say:
This interview could only have been better if Domingue had tucked the newspaper he took with him in the shit under his arm. And that was the guy that the Rangers couldn’t get their way around. Sure, he might feel light and supple, but still.
It’s hardly a deathblow for Rangers, but it’s fair So rangers. A goaltender doing his own fire dance in the crease to keep a limited Rangers team in (and despite their smashing regular-season scoring, they’re limited) and suddenly every skater’s hands turn to stone. And sure, maybe coach Gerard Gallant could be criticized for throwing Mika Zibanejad’s line against Sidney Crosby’s line all night and watching his top line get run over shift after shift when defending isn’t Zibanejad’s job. Or maybe how he sent out his charges to hit everything in sight and then watched the penguins just walk around them for the last four periods once they found the rhythm of everything.
But that misses the point. Sometimes we need to be reminded that no one can run from their true nature, at least not forever. On the Rangers’ biggest night in about five years, they were definitely the best Rangers they could be.